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Verve People
February 02, 2016

Gene Junction: Kiara Alia Advani

Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena. Photograph by Abhay Singh

Actress Kiara Alia Advani talks about her culturally diverse background and bonding with her grandparents

“I have never sat back and thought,‘Oh, I’m different!’”

In the news for her role in M. S. Dhoni: The Untold Story, Kiara Alia Advani nurtured dreams of being an actor since her childhood. Growing up as the great-granddaughter of Ashok Kumar, and grand-niece of Saeed Jaffrey, the Mumbai-based actor was — by her own admission — a filmi child, and is working towards keeping their legacy alive.

Cultural influences
“More than cultural influences, a few family traditions have always been a part of my life. My family has been big on having our meals together. It’s our ‘together’ time before everybody heads off to do their own thing. We’re also huge on family holidays and this is an event that all of us look forward to every year. The extended family gets together and makes it a point to visit a new place or an old favourite.”

Learnings from parents
“My parents had dated since high school and then gotten married. Since they have known each other for a long time, they have very similar mindsets when it comes to cultural values. It’s just the way they execute the same things that differs. My mum’s a teacher by profession so she has to repeat everything five times, whereas my father simply leads by example. My mother is the active campaigner and my father is the silent crusader.”

Mixed genes
“I’m proud of my heritage. It’s interesting to know where you come from, to have family all over the world that is so different from one another. It makes you more perceptive of people all around you and definitely less judgemental. But not many people know of my mixed lineage, and so I have not faced any challenges because of it.”

Family ties
“I’m equally close to my mother’s immediate family as I am to my father’s. However as a clan, the former is so spread out that it’s easier for me to relate to my father’s extended family as they are all Indian despite most of them not living in India. My mother’s relatives are Spanish-Portuguese. Their lifestyle is very intriguing to me and their outlook is much more liberal and like all things new, it’s fascinating.”

Being culturally diverse
“It broadens your outlook towards life. But I have never sat back and thought, ‘Oh, I’m different!’ Everyone is different but morality is the same wherever you go! My upbringing has been extremely balanced.”

Bonding with grandparents
“I never got to meet my father’s parents, but we meet his extended family on occasions. My mother’s family is an interesting mix and they more than make up for me not having one set of grandparents. My maternal grandfather is a Muslim from Lucknow who married my grandmother, a Christian who has a wonderful mixture of Scottish, Irish, Portuguese and Spanish ancestry. My mother’s godmother is a Bengali who lived with her during her teen years, but despite being brought up in a mixed household, my mother followed Christianity. I’m extremely close to my grandmother and would go with her to church. She is extremely spiritual and spends a lot of time telling us about the Bible, yet giving us the freedom to find our own paths to connect with god. I’m a very spiritual person as well and that comes from her.”

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